I was in the post office yesterday and at the end of my transaction the postal lady said “I can’t figure out why you are always so glow-y and radiant when you come in here. Is it your makeup or your hair?” Ahem. I don’t wear makeup (other than some variation of a 1940’s red lipstick daily and will ‘do’ my eyes if work or social circumstance dictates and my hair is most often found collected in 1980s banana hair clips and is starting to grey in a most unwelcome sign of my chronological years). But, I have used a mud mask all the way down to the décolletage on a weekly basis since I got my first zits at age 11 – it became a ritual because it worked. Forty years on I have a better intellectual understanding of the therapeutic and rejuvenating properties of mud – not simply the cosmetic! For thousands of years people in every culture on the planet have used mud baths – the whole of Rome’s ancient population (young and old, male and female, ill or healthy) famously gathered to partake. As a ferocious gardener I am acutely aware of how wondrous a ‘mother’ the Earth is in providing for our needs – the very dirt under our feet, in the midst of a puddle, the almost black mud at the edge of the Dead Sea, by example, contains a plethora of minerals that not only absorb dirt and oil from the skin, but have also been known to improve joint and muscle pain. Slathering mud on my skin always feels ‘primitive’ in the best possible way. Connected to the Earth in the same way a plant draws nourishment, sometimes tingly (depending on the sea kelp or botanicals infused within the various types of mud) as it dries my blood rushes to the covered skin pulling the toxins of everyday life away to be processed by my liver and kidneys and flushed from my body. This is how the earth in its original state is designed to work, layers of top soil, sand, bedrock acting as a filter to recycle and renew our planet’s water resources.
This healing process is being systematically destroyed by avarice and patent disregard for not only the future but, in many places, our present. Growing up on an island which was long term leased from the Five Nations of indigenous people of the Iroquois the philosophy of each action impacting seven generations into the future was organic to my being from an early age. Living in Boston for a decade I would drive back to Western New York via the New York State Thruway and sometimes taking the back roads through the Berkshires and along the Hudson through Columbia County – in the spring and fall the earth turned over dark and rich in some places and sandy loam in others. The contrasts guiding me back to my origins like the DNA common to Monarch butterflies en route to Mexico.
‘Technology’ exists to mimic nature in such diverse applications as The Woodland Park Zoo and Sustainable South Bronx’s Smart Roofs – filtering water, decreasing adverse and creating positive impact on local biospheres, saving money, creating jobs, and revitalizing urban areas in a way that only ‘green’ can. But it’s clear that these efforts are insufficient to counter the effects fracking, surface mining, and drought WITHOUT ALL OF US HELPING! So, if you aren’t inclined to disrupt your entire life a handful of suggestions:
- Sign a petition (or every single one of them) to protect the environment
- Donate time or money to a not-for-profit which embodies a niche which you particularly connect with
- Do no harm. See that foil lid from your yogurt? Please rinse and recycle. Use your own ‘to-go’ cup for beverages. If you have the space create a compost pile (or bin) for re-purposing your coffee grounds, tea bags, broccoli trimmings and egg shells.
- Plant a tree – even better if your community has a program, go meet your neighbors and get your hands in the dirt!
- Support a garden
And it’s not like “we” don’t know all this! When we live in harmony with nature, giving and taking in EQUAL measure, connected to the nuances of Earth’s rhythms such as David Abram so eloquently defines in his book The Spell of the Sensuous, we notice more of the subtle shifts of perfection around us. Caring for the planet creates a mindfulness in us that is amplified by nature itself, resonance for nurture. I was struck by the discovery of the movie DIRT on Hulu – I have now watched it three times in as many days (I can’t encourage you, dear reader, sufficiently to make the time to watch this with your family). And while each of the participants in the movie approaches the earth in a different way they all share a reverence for the soil which sustains us.